Monday, May 7, 2012

My Favorite Trails

April 30, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Superstition Wilderness Area is filled with many beautiful and mysterious areas. Searching out these special places has been a lifetime avocation of mine. I worked on a cattle ranch for several years, hiked the trails as a young man and continue riding the trails throughout adulthood. My love for the history, beauty and solitude of region has not diminished in any way. I continue today hiking and walking in the Superstition Wilderness Area and even enjoying it more because it has been saved from development.

Many years ago a gentlemen asked me what was my favorite hide-a-way in the Superstition Wilderness. This certainly was a difficult choice for me because I had so many places I loved and cherished within this rugged mountain wilderness of deep canyons and towering spires. Wandering the trails and remote regions of this wilderness was as exciting as gathering the history and legend of the region. After a moment of indecision, I decided to make my choices of favorite locales in the wilderness.

The first one was the rugged interior of Rough’s Canyon that flowed into Fish Creek Canyon in the eastern portion of the wilderness area. This canyon is beautiful in its transition through desert flora to high-mountain flora. Water is generally found year-round in this canyon, making it an oasis in the desert.

The canyon floor is filled with house-size boulders making it almost impossible to hike through. An old cattleman named Floyd Stone once told me he got a horse down into the canyon and actually had to build a trail to get him out. Knowing old Stone and his ability with livestock I didn’t doubt his story at all. He ran the old Reavis and Tortilla allotment for a couple of decades with his father-inlaw John A. “Hoolie” Bacon.

The early inhabitants of the Superstition Wilderness built cliff dwellings in Rough Canyon and these ruins today are a mute testimony to their survival instincts of almost millennium ago.

Another favorite location in the wilderness is Log Trough Canyon. This canyon is filled with large Ponderosa pines and thick underbrush. It is extremely difficult for a man or woman on horseback to negotiate the trail along the canyon’s floor. Near the head of this canyon there are some old “trigger-traps” used to catch wild cattle. The brush in this canyon was so thick it was impossible to work cattle on horseback in the old days. Cattlemen like William J. Clemans, John A. Bacon, and Floyd Stone would tell you, “A good cow dog was worth a dozen good cowboys in this brushy country.”

The beauty and solitude of Log Trough Canyon is unique. Several years ago, I spent several hours watching a clearing among the towering pines of this canyon. As the wind rustled through the tops of these pines and the rays of the sun broke through into the clearing a young doe browsed on the deep green grass that covered the floor of the clearing. It was such a tranquil scene it mesmerized me for several minutes. This was the kind of beauty and tranquility you found in Log Trough Canyon.

Another favorite location is the top of Weaver’s Needle. I am quite convinced I will never climb to the top of Weaver’s Needle again, but my experience climbing the “needle” in the 1950’s and 1960’s will live with me forever. I really don’t consider climbing the “needle” a technical climb, however it is highly recommended only for experienced rock climbers or mountain climbers. An old friend of mine, Clay Worst, climbed the “needle” in an emergency in the 1960’s and I doubt very much he would recommend the average person to undertake such a climb. I don’t encourage anyone to climb Weaver’s Needle unless they are in good physical shape and experienced in mountain climbing.

There was an old retired Navy photographer named Dewey Wildoner who mastered the climb when he was seventy-two years old. Dewey was a veteran hiker and climber. He celebrated his birthday while camping out over night on top of Weaver’s Needle. Dewey was a dedicated photographer of the Superstition Mountains during the 1960’s and 1970’s. He shared his photographs and slides with the public ny doing slide programs on the Superstition Mountains in the 1960’s. Many people in the Apache Junction area knew Dewey as “Superstition Curley.”

The climb to the top of Weaver’s Needle is a very exhilarating experience. Once on top, the view is spectacular. Looking to the northeast and into Needle Canyon is a magnificent view. The three or four times I have climbed the Weaver’s Needle the wind blew constantly on top. There is a small area cleared for putting up a tent. Over the years many people have climbed Weaver’s Needle safely, but as a word of caution, many have died in their attempt to climb “the needle” also.

Next week, Part II